Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns

gf hot cross buns 1
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Sometimes Easter is hard. The chocolates, the hot cross buns… it can all get a bit much. Unfortunately, the additives – usually colouring and preservatives – in Easter chocolates and hot cross buns can cause all sorts of unwanted behavioural and physical issues, especially for kids, who are particularly susceptible to the side effects of additives. Add gluten into the list of food sensitivities and things become even more difficult. In a previous blog, I’ve given you some tips for helping the Easter bunny find additive free Easter chocolates. But what about the good old hot cross bun with all it’s tempting spicy aromas and fresh hot glutinous texture?? Thanks to Orgran and Spring Hill Farm (via Decadent Alternatives website) I have good news for any gluten free folks looking for a hot cross bun fix!

It all started with a simple desire for a fresh steaming hot cross bun. Knowing it had to be gluten free and knowing I couldn’t find one in my remote town, I went on a search to find a recipe I could attempt to make at home. I ended up choosing two to try – one from the Orgran website and one from Decadent Alternatives (via the Springhill Farm website). Knowing it was my first attempt, I was after a recipe that used a pre-mixed gluten free flour so I didn’t have to mess with working out the best flour mix for this type of baking.

Turns out, I have found two great recipes – woohoo! And thanks to the fabulously talented Jacky, we have tried and tested them two or three times with a few little tweaks to make sure they are just right for you this Easter.

Here are a few tips to accompany these two awesome recipes.

Orgran Hot Cross Buns

Ok this recipe makes buns that taste most like the traditional hot cross bun. They are quite a dense end product, full of flavour and easy to work with. It’s an easy recipe to make, but can take a bit of time as there are two proving times needed for the dough to be ready to bake. Here is the link to the original recipe. Here is a link to my rewritten version of this recipe with the little things I modified.

Flavour

My kids aren’t fussed on the mixed peel/fruit you find in some hot cross buns, and mixed peel/dried fruit usually contains preservatives, so this recipe was a good one to try as it only contains currants, which are generally easy to find without preservatives. With all the mixed spices in this recipe, the flavour is very much like your traditional hot cross bun.

Texture

I found these buns to be a little dry and a bit crumbly – the dryness was noticeable after the first proving. This could have been the weather or the mix, but I decided to try making them again with more moisture in the recipe.

For batch number two, I added an extra 125ml of milk and also ½ teaspoon of xanthan gum to the dry mix. This definitely made a more moist and less crumbly mix, so I think I’ll make them this way from now on (and have put these changes in the reprint of this recipe on my website here). Adding more liquid definitely makes this dough more sticky and harder to handle. The first batch was a fully formed dough in one big lump, the second was stuck to the bowl and very sticky. Check out my tip in the recipe below for how to avoid sticky fingers!

I also noticed these buns didn’t rise as much as the Springhill Farm recipe did, but again, they are a very different buns and I might not have had ideal conditions for them to rise well. The second batch also didn’t rise too much, but still a little more than the first lot.

Baking and preparing

The first batch was baked in a fan forced oven (baking time in my rewritten version of this recipe is for fan forced oven). I had a few complications with my second batch as the power was scheduled to be out at my house for the entire day. So I had to whip them up first thing in the morning before we lost power and by the time they had risen to double their size, I had no power to re-knead the dough using my mixer and no oven to prove them for the second time! So I improvised and did a little kneading by hand as I rolled them into buns to place on a tray.  I then found a fabulous makeshift oven for proving – my car! Yep – in the mid morning hot sun with the doors closed, this worked a treat to help my buns rise!  I used Jacky’s oven for the second batch. Her oven is not fan forced and hence the baking time was a lot longer.

The cross/glaze

I decided to not use marzipan for the cross on top and instead used some leftover ready rolled icing we had made from scratch for my daughter’s birthday cake last week. This worked an absolute treat! NB: the homemade icing we made has no additives – store bought ready rolled icing almost always contains preservatives, so best to make your own. Alternatively, you could just use a mix of icing sugar and egg white similar to the icing used for our Gingerbread houses last Christmas. You can click here for that icing recipe.

The verdict

Overall, if you are after a simple easy recipe, with minimal ingredients and great flavour that is a close match to the flavour of a glutinous hot cross bun, then this one is for you! Super yummy and definitely passed the taste test in our family, with the kids devouring quite a few on the first day! They’re especially good whilst still hot with a good dollop of organic butter smeared on the inside! Oh and this recipe made about 18-20 little bite size hot cross buns, so plenty for lunchbox treats or afternoon tea.

Those not woofed down by the kids were frozen on the day they were baked to keep them fresh, as most homemade gluten free baked goods are definitely best on the day they are baked and can get stale quickly.

Pros: easy to make, great flavour, similar to wheat hot cross buns in flavour and texture
Cons: a little time consuming due to the double proving process (but I reckon you can skip the second proving and they’ll turn out just fine!)

gf hot cross buns 2

Decadent Alternative Spring Hill Farm Hot Cross Buns

The kids particularly liked these – could well have been because of the chocolate in them!
Here is the link to the original recipe. Here is my modified rewritten version of this recipe.

Texture

This recipe produced a light, fluffy, moist and great textured bun that pulls apart nicely and tastes great! It has a very elastic dough when cooked and is very different from the Orgran dense texture.

Flavour

I modified this recipe a bit by omitting the sultanas and only adding chocolate bits (we used milk chocolate bits from Junee licorice factory).

We did find these buns a little lacking in spicey flavour in the first batch, so I added double the mixed spice amount in the second attempt – this is the amount shown in my rewritten version of the recipe here.

Baking and preparing

The first batch made ended up super huge buns that were a little overcooked, but still tasted amazing! The oven was quite hot and we lost track of time so they were quite crunchy on the outside. So for batch two, I made smaller buns, making a total of 16-18 buns. The second batch turned out really well, less crunchy (☺) but still light and fluffy.

Be warned though, because it is a very moist and sticky dough, when separating the dough into bun sized pieces things can get very very messy! It will not form into a lump and stays stuck to the bowl and anything that touches it!  Tip: Rub coconut oil on your fingers and hands before handling the dough and you can easily make little buns and shape them nicely without sticky fingers. You will need to oil up your hands quite a few times.

These buns rise really well – I think it must be the activation of the yeast in the first step of the recipe that helps here. Also, they only require one knead/mix, which is a nice little bit of time saving.

When adding the chocolate bits in the first batch, we mixed for a little too long and ended up with a totally chocolatey dough and very few chips after baking, so with batch two I merely churned the choc bits through for a few seconds at the very end of the mixing process. This meant the dough was less chocolatey but there were chunks of chocolate in every bite – yummo!

The cross/glaze

I also got a bit lazy in the second batch and didn’t bother mixing up the sugar and water glaze to make them all pretty and shiny, but feel free to do so if you have more energy than me! (I could use the power outage as an excuse for why I didn’t do the glaze, but I’d be fibbing ☺) Again, you could also put crosses on these as I did for the Orgran recipe.

The verdict

Overall, I think the choc chips in these buns really made them extra yummy, and they were a little different in texture and taste to your ‘normal’ wheat hot cross bun – definitely different to the Orgran hot cross buns. However, different is not a bad thing in this case!

Pros: moist, light, fluffy and tasty buns with that little chocolatey goodness to make them special and extra “Easter-like”!  This recipe was the favourite with out family because of it’s lighter texture.
Cons: sticky to work with (so be sure to use the coconut oil tip!)

Both versions were best eaten hot and straight out of the oven with a nice dollop of butter :-) Thankfully, both recipes were essentially three easy steps – throw everything in a bowl, heat the liquid, mix together and give them time to rise.  I’d be interested to see what the Orgran recipe would be like if you activated the yeast (as per the Spring Hill farm recipe) before adding to the dry mix. I will also place them closer together on the tray so they all stick together and have to be pulled apart instead of being individual buns (they look prettier this way!).  We have hot cross buns coming out of our ears at the moment, so I’ll leave those experiments until the supplies run low. :-)

If you are gluten free, why not treat yourself this Easter and bake some homemade gluten free hot cross buns!  Let me know how you go and which recipe you prefer – you can leave a comment or picture on The Food Werewolf Facebook page here.

If you’re into gluten free baking, check out my soon to be released gluten free eBook – available for purchase on Monday 20th April 2015.  There’s a bonus baking section dedicated to making your baking life easier when going gluten free.  Stay tuned for more info in future blogs!

Happy Easter baking!

Loren x